The Logbooks of the Lady Nelson
Part 5 out of 5
9 o'clock, Wednesday and Thursday Islands as well as numerous other
islands lying to the north-east of the Gulf of Carpentaria were passed.
At 2 o'clock on September 17th, the west head of the Gulf of Carpentaria
was seen; on the 19th the vessels reached Croker's Island, and anchored
on the 20th at Port Essington. The Captain's log contains this entry on
that day: "Took possession of the north coast of New Holland; and
Lieutenant Roe buried a bottle containing a copy of the form of taking
possession--and several coins of His Majesty--on a low sandy point
bearing east from the ship which was named Point Record."* (* Captain's
log, H.M.S. Tamar, Public Record Office.)
The following account of the proceedings was published in the Sydney
"The north coast of New Holland, or Australia, contained between the
meridian of 129 and 135 degrees East of Greenwich with all the bays,
rivers, harbours, creeks, therein and all the islands laying off were
taken possession of in the name and right of His most Excellent Majesty,
George the IV, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and His Majesty's
colours hoisted at Port Essington, on 20th September, 1824, and at
Melville and Bathurst Islands on 26th September, 1824, by James John
Gordon Bremer, Commander of the most Honourable Military order of the
Bath, Captain of H.M.S. Tamar and Commanding Officer of His Majesty's
Forces employed on the said coast.
"His Majesty's colonial brig, Lady Nelson, and the British ship Countess
of Harcourt in company.
"September 26th, 1824."
During the stay of the ships at Port Essington, Captain Bremer sent boats
in every direction to search for fresh water, knowing that, unless it
were found, it would be impossible for the people to remain there
permanently. On the 21st of September at daylight four boats went to
examine the eastern shores. The soil on this side proved to be sandy and
interspersed with red sandstone rock, which, it was thought, contained
particles of iron. The trees were not very tall, and resembled those of
New South Wales. But no water was found. Next day the boats went
westward, and the search was still unsuccessful. On this side the country
was superior to that to the eastward; it was more open, and the trees
were of magnificent height.
To discover water now became the chief object of everybody. On Point
Record, a water-hole fenced round with bamboos was at last found. In it
was some thick water, which had a brackish taste, and it was thought that
this water-hole was the work of Malays, and not of the Australian
aborigines, of whom traces were observed in various places, though, as
yet, none had been seen. Captain Bremer described Port Essington as being
"one of the most noble and beautiful pieces of water that can be
imagined, having a moderate depth and a capability of containing a whole
navy in perfect security." The lack of fresh water was its drawback.* (*
It turned out afterwards that there was plenty of water and of good
quality, but unfortunately it was not then discovered.) As the season was
far advanced, the Commander decided to leave this beautiful bay and sail
to Apsley Strait, which divides Melville and Bathurst Islands.
On the 23rd the ships left Port Essington, and after making Cape Van
Diemen of the old charts entered the strait and on the 26th anchored off
Luxmore Head. On this day Captain Bremer went on shore and took formal
possession of Melville and Bathurst Islands on behalf of Great Britain.
On the 30th, Captain Bremer discovered a running stream on Melville
Island in a cove to the southward of the ships. The water fortunately was
fresh. The south-east point of the cove was pleasantly situated on a
slight rise, and was tolerably clear of timber and suitable for a
settlement. Captain Bremer therefore took the ships into it, and he gave
the cove the name of King's Cove, in honour of its discoverer, Captain
Phillip Parker King.
The point chosen as the settlement was called Point Barlow, after Captain
Barlow; and the part of the strait between Harris Island and Luxmore Head
where the ships anchored was named Point Cockburn, after Sir George
Cockburn, one of the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty. The harbour
was not equal to Port Essington, as the entrance was intricate, and a
dangerous shoal, rendered perilous by the rapid tides, extended some
miles distant from the land. It was formed by the shores of Bathurst
Island, as well as of Melville Island. To the northernmost point of
Bathurst Island Captain Bremer gave the name of Cape Brace.
On October 1st, parties were landed on Point Barlow to clear the ground
and to lay the foundation of a fort, for it was believed that the Malays,
who fished annually in these waters, would soon come in great numbers,
and hostility was also expected from the aborigines. A fort, therefore,
was constructed so as to command the whole anchorage, and when finished
it was possible to fire a shot from it on to Bathurst Island. In its
building, timber of great solidity was used. On it were mounted two
9-pounder guns and four 18-pounder carronades, with a 12-pounder boatgun,
which could be shifted as the occasion required. These were supplied by
The boat-gun was fitted so that it could be placed on board the Lady
Nelson, whenever it should be necessary to detach her to the neighbouring
islands. Round the fort there were soon built comfortable cottages for
the settlers, and, when completed, they gave the place the air of a
village. The fort was rectangular, and within the square were erected
barracks for the soldiers, and houses, the frames of which had been
brought from New South Wales. The climate was found to be "one of the
best between the tropics," particularly at dawn, "when," says Captain
Bremer, "nothing can be more delightful than this part of the twenty-four
hours." In spite of many mangrove swamps that existed there, much of the
soil on Melville Island was excellent, and in it the plants brought in
the ships flourished luxuriantly; they included the orange, lemon, lime,
and banana. Melons and pumpkins sprang up immediately, and maize was
"upon ground" on the fourth day after it was sown. The native forests
were almost inexhaustible, producing most, if not all, the tropical
fruits and shrubs of the Eastern Islands, chief among them a sort of
cotton tree, a species of "lignum vitae," and the bastard nutmeg.
While Captain Bremer explored the country, the work at the settlement was
carried out without loss of time. On the 8th of October a pier, for the
purpose of landing provisions and guns, was begun, next a Commissariat
store; and by the 20th the pier, bastion, and sea face of the fort were
completed. Captain Bremer writes, "I had the satisfaction of hoisting His
Majesty's colours under a royal salute from the guns mounted on Fort
Dundas, which I named in honour of the noble Lord and the Head of the
THE LOSS OF THE LADY NELSON.
On November 10th Captain Bremer, having carried out his duties in
accordance with the instructions that he had received from the Admiralty,
took leave of the settlement. He handed over its charge to Captain
Maurice Barlow. The Tamar then dropped into the stream, being saluted by
15 guns, which she returned. Two days afterwards she left Port Cockburn
for India in company with the Countess of Harcourt, bound for Mauritius
The Lady Nelson remained behind at Port Cockburn, partly to act as a
guardship and partly to bring to the settlement the needed stores and
supplies from the islands to the northwards. These islands, as well as
Coepang, afforded fresh meat in the form of buffalo beef, and it proved
an inestimable boon to many ships which traded in these waters. Fresh
provisions being scarce at the settlement* (* See Major Campbell's
report.) Captain Barlow sent the Lady Nelson for a cargo of buffaloes. In
February 1825, the little ship set forth on her mission, from which she
was doomed never to return. As she left Port Cockburn her Commander was
warned to avoid an island called Baba, one of the Serwatti Islands, which
was infested with pirates who were very daring and very cruel. It is
supposed that the warning was unheeded, for there the little vessel met
The schooner Stedcombe, Captain Burns (or Barnes), from England, arrived
at Melville Island when anxiety was being felt there regarding the Lady
Nelson's fate. After her stores were landed, as scurvy was increasing
among the colonists, Captain Barlow chartered the vessel on behalf of the
Government and despatched her to Timor for buffaloes: she was also
instructed to search for the missing Lady Nelson. Her captain remained at
the settlement, and the chief mate took charge of the schooner. The
Stedcombe never returned, and later it was learned that she too had been
captured by pirates, off Timor Laut, about sixty miles eastward of Baba,
where the Lady Nelson had been taken.
The Serwatti Islands form a chain which stretches from the east end of
Timor as far as Baba. When Lieutenant Kolff of the Dutch Navy visited
Baba in July 1825 the inhabitants were shy and deserted the village of
Tepa on his landing. He was convinced that a crime had been committed,
and learned that "some months previously an English brig manned by about
a dozen Europeans had anchored off Alata on the south-east coast and had
engaged in barter with the natives who were on board in great numbers,
and who taking the opportunity of 5 men being on shore...attacked and
killed the people on the brig as well as those in the boat when they
returned." Earl, who translated Kolff's journal, says that "the natives
received not the slightest reproof from Lieutenant Kolff for this
Fourteen years afterwards, when Captain Gordon Bremer was acting as
commandant at Port Essington,* (* Melville Island was abandoned in 1829
for Port Essington.) Captain Thomas Watson arrived there in the schooner
Essington, bearing the news that Mr. Volshawn, master of a small trading
vessel flying the Dutch flag, had seen an English sailor on the island of
Timor Laut when he visited it in February of the previous year.* (*
Captain Watson's journal is preserved at the Admiralty.) The Englishman
was kept captive at a native village on the south-eastern side of the
island, and stated that he had belonged to the Stedcombe. Mr. Volshawn
also declared that he had seen there articles which had been taken from
Captain Watson decided to try and rescue his countryman, and on March
31st, 1839, when off Timor Laut he stood in for the island. The plan he
proposed to adopt in order to carry out the rescue was to entice a chief
or Orang Kaire on board and hold him as a hostage until the English
sailor was produced. As his ship came in shore three canoes under Dutch
colours put out to meet him with twelve to thirteen men in each. In
answer to Captain Watson's inquiries whether there was a white man on the
island some of the natives replied, "Certo; Engrise; Louron," which was
translated as meaning that there was an Englishman at Louron.* (*
Lourang.) Other canoes came alongside the Essington, whose crew had been
put under arms, and an Orang Kaire was allowed to come on board. Captain
Watson writes: "Now was the time for carrying my plans into effect...and
I told the Orang Kaire if he would bring him (the captive) to me I would
give him a quantity of trade which was shown him." To this the chief
agreed. But as no great faith was placed in his assertion, Watson then
told him that he must send his canoes and fetch the Englishman, when he
would receive his reward, but if they did not bring his prisoner he would
be hung from the yard-arm, and that "we should fire our great guns on the
village." The ship was now surrounded by canoes and no one was allowed to
come on board excepting a very friendly chief. This man immediately
pulled from his bosom a small basket of papers which were found to
consist of loose scraps written by the crew of the Charles Eaton.* (* The
Charles Eaton was wrecked in Torres Strait in 1834.) Beside these the
basket contained a letter written by Lieutenant Owen Stanley, of H.M.S.
Britomart, stating that he had called here and had examined and copied
the scraps of paper. As night was coming on the canoes were dismissed and
all the natives sent away excepting the Orang Kaire who had first
arrived. The other chief was anxious to remain on board with him, but Mr.
Watson would not allow him to do so.
After pacing the deck, the chief made a resolute attempt to follow his
companions, tearing off the few garments which he was wearing and
endeavouring to jump into the water. Early on April 1st the Essington was
brought abreast of Louron. Not a canoe hove in sight until nine o'clock,
when two belonging to the prisoner came alongside and the crews asked
that he might be allowed to go on shore. This request Captain Watson
refused, and shortly afterwards the friendly Orang, who again visited the
ship, promised to deliver up the Englishman. At 2.30 P.M. two canoes were
observed approaching the Essington, in one of which was the captive. He
was dressed as a native, and when they drew close to the ship it was seen
that he was in a most miserable condition. He was of fair complexion and
his hair, which had been allowed to grow long, was "triced up in native
custom with a comb made of bamboo," and being of a light yellow colour
"it resembled the finest silk." His only garments were a sort of
waistcoat without sleeves and a blue and white dungaree girdle round his
loins. He looked delicate, and his face wore a woebegone expression,
which apparently was habitual, while his body was covered with numberless
scars and sores. The sinews of his knee-joints were very contracted,
because, he told Captain Watson, he had to sit fishing so long in one
position in the hot sun so that he was almost unable to walk. His ears
had been perforated after the custom of the natives, and in the lobe of
each he wore a piece of bamboo at least an inch in diameter.
As was to be expected, from having been fourteen years on the island, he
had almost forgotten his native language and with difficulty could make
himself intelligible. He was, however, able to give the following account
of his life there. The Stedcombe, on leaving Melville Island, had gone to
Timor Laut for live stock and had moored off Louron. Mr. Bastell, the
mate in charge, then proceeded on shore with the crew, leaving on board
the steward, a boy named John Edwards, and himself. As Mr. Bastell and
the crew did not return he (Forbes) looked through the glass and then
beheld their bodies stretched out on the beach--the heads severed from
each. As a canoe was perceived approaching the ship, he proposed to the
steward and to John Edwards that they should arm: but the former paid no
attention to him. He then proposed that he and John Edwards should punch
one of the bolts out of the cable and liberate the ship. They were in the
act of doing this when the natives, among whom was the Orang Kaire whom
Watson had detained, boarded the Stedcombe. The unfortunate steward was
killed on the spot, and the two boys, expecting to share his fate, betook
themselves to the rigging and were only induced to descend upon repeated
promises that they would not be injured. Strange to say, the natives kept
their promises, and after plundering the ship they burnt her. The boys
were kept in the capacity of ordinary slaves until about four years
before the coming of the Essington, when Edwards died, and since that
time Forbes had been unable to move in consequence of the stiffness in
his legs. The scars were caused by the natives when he incurred their
displeasure. One of their common modes of punishment was to take hot
embers from the fire and place them on some part of his body until it was
severely burned. When asked how he was treated generally, he replied
"Trada Bergouse," meaning very badly. Some few natives, he said, were
kind to him, among them the chief who had produced the papers. Speaking
of the chief of Louron, he remarked, "Louron cuts me down to the ground"
which was thought to imply that he flogged him and knocked him down.
Whenever a vessel hove in sight the chief would have him bound hand and
foot and keep him so, as long as the vessel remained at the island. This
explains why Lieutenant Stanley did not see him when he called in H.M.S.
Britomart. Some of the crew of the Charles Eaton had come there and
wished him to leave with them, but permission was refused. Lastly a
Chinese trader had wished to purchase him and had offered several "gown
pieces" as the price, but this offer too was declined. When Kolff called
with two Dutch men-of-war, he and his men would have nothing to do with
him, nor would they assist him to escape.
Forbes gave accounts of many ships having been cut off by these pirates
but only two clear accounts--the one of a China junk which they boarded,
murdered and plundered the crew, and eventually burnt, and the other a
schooner manned with black men, which they plundered afterwards
liberating the men. He also said that a whaler had been cast away seven
moons ago, and that two whale-boats and one jolly-boat with only five
people in all arrived at Timor Laut. This story, however, was confused
When Captain Bremer arrived at Sydney in H.M.S. Alligator about the same
time as the Essington, he had Forbes placed in the hospital there and
wrote to the Admiralty asking for inquiries to be made about his
relatives and to inform them of his existence. In his despatch Captain
Bremer remarked that even Forbes's features seemed to have "assimilated
themselves" to those of the islanders.
The kindly chief was afterwards rewarded, as was Captain Watson, by the
Admiralty. The Orang Kaire of Louron seems to have escaped scot free,
having left the Essington as Forbes was being brought on board. Forbes
afterwards retired to Williamstown, Victoria, where he spent the rest of
his life as a fisherman, and it is said that he never quite recovered
from the effects of his harsh bondage.
The last news of the Lady Nelson was brought to Sydney some time after
her capture by a ship called the Faith, which reported that the hull of
the Lady Nelson was still to be seen with her name painted on the stern
at the island of Baba.
It was an unworthy end to a very gallant ship, but the record of the
useful work that she accomplished survives and will have its place in
every history of Australia.
H.M.S. BUFFALO: SHIP'S MUSTER, 1801 TO 1805.
No separate muster of the ship's company of the Lady Nelson can be found
among the Public Records, but during the period that she was attached to
H.M.S. Buffalo in New South Wales the names of her crew and of the
supernumeraries sailing in her were inscribed in the books of that ship,
four pages from which are here reproduced. The first three of these give
the names of the officers and seamen who composed the complement of the
Lady Nelson in 1801, 1803 and 1804. The fourth page is an extract from
the Buffalo's own muster-roll when she conveyed the first Norfolk Island
settlers to Port Dalrymple in 1805, the Government having decided to
break up their settlement. Among the passengers on board the Buffalo were
Mrs. Elizabeth Paterson the wife of the Lieutenant-Governor, Mr.
Williams, Acting Surveyor-General, and Ann Williams, possibly a relative
of his. With the Norfolk Island settlers was William Lee, to whom this
volume is dedicated, then a lad ten years of age, who afterwards became
one of the first pioneers in the Bathurst district.
The story of the Buffalo's arrival at Port Dalrymple is told in a letter
written to Earl Camden by Colonel Paterson from Yorktown as follows:--
"On the 4th April H.M.S. Buffalo arrived from Port Jackson by which
conveyance I received a proportion of such stores and provisions as could
be spared, 120 ewes, 2 rams, 6 cows, 2 bulls, 1 mare, and 1 horse: 50
prisoners were also sent.
"Five settlers arrived at the same time from Norfolk Island with the
Acting Surveyor-General to measure out the allotments necessary for them.
Soon after their arrival I accompanied them to different situations as
far as Supply River, which is about 10 miles from Headquarters. After
examining the ground they chose their allotments on the banks of a run, 2
miles to the south-east of this place. Mr. Riley, Acting
Deputy-Commissary, recommended also to have the advantages of free
settlers, chose his ground also in this situation. They proceeded to
clear the ground and to cultivate. Everyone exerted themselves as much as
possible, but those who cultivated on the sides of the hills were
deceived in their choice and too much disappointed in the first
appearance of their crops, the low ground being also found subject to
temporary floods. AS THEY WERE THE FIRST SETTLERS, I have recommended
them to his Excellency, as a remuneration of their losses, to have grants
of land on the north side of the main river Tamar extending up the river
South Esk. My motive for recommending this situation is that they cannot
fail in success as it is a part of the country the colony must look to
for grain. The first twelve months being now past I have every reason to
believe the greatest of our difficulties have been surmounted...It is not
for me to presume to be acquainted with the particular causes which
rendered it necessary this colony should be established, but if its
desirable situation in the important passage of Bass Streights was one of
the objects, it appears to me necessary that a large establishment should
ever remain here while the interests of Great Britain are to be effected
in this part of the world, and I can assure your Lordship I have seen no
country yet that offers such inducements to be retained.*
I have, etc.,
(* The remaining Norfolk Island Settlers were later on removed to
Tasmania in different ships, the Lady Nelson conveying many of them to
their new home. Historical Records of New South Wales volume 5 page 732.)
Abbott, Captain E.
Albany Otway, Cape.
Amsterdam, Island of.
Babel Islands, see Cat Islands.
Baie du Nord.
Banks, Sir Joseph.
Barlow, Captain Maurice.
his valuable charts.
shoots a hawk.
suffers from sea-sickness.
surveys harbour and river.
Bass, Dr. George.
discovers Bass Strait.
in Encounter Bay.
writes to Governor King.
Bay of Islands.
Bay of Seals.
Bay of Shoals.
Big Stuck, the.
Bowen, Lieutenant John.
his Colony at Risdon.
sent to Hobart.
finds a canoe.
his adventures among Bush Natives.
Bremer, Captain James Gordon.
leaves England in the Tamar.
at Port Essington.
arrives at Sydney.
Bunker, Captain Ebor.
Cape of Good Hope.
Carpentaria, Gulf of.
Coal River, see Hunter's River.
Cockburn, Sir George.
Countess of Harcourt, the.
Curtis, Admiral Sir Roger.
Curtoys, Commander George.
Derwent, the (river).
Devil's Tower Island.
Double Island Point.
Dragon Island, see Laurence's Island.
Duke of Portland, the.
Earl Cornwallis, the.
Enterprise of Bordeaux.
Flinders, Captain Matthew.
arrives at Port Jackson.
reaches Sandy Cape.
names Port Bowen.
names Mount Westall.
loses his anchor.
separates from Murray.
meets Baudin in Encounter Bay.
Flint and Steel Cove.
Fourcroy Island, see Lady Julia Island.
France, Isle of.
Frederick Henry Bay.
Fresh Water River.
Freycinet, Louis de.
George IV, King.
Giant Kingfisher, the.
Glass House Bay.
Governor Hunter, the.
Governor King's Bay.
Governor King's Island.
Grand Capuchin Island, see also Flinders' Island.
Grant, Captain James.
Grant, Dr. J.R.
Grant, Lieutenant James.
appointed to Lady Nelson.
meets Dr. J.R. Grant.
letter to Governor King.
describes Churchill's Island.
meets John Loft.
receives a pension.
Great Barrier Reef.
Great Islands, see Flinders' Islands.
Halfway House, The.
Haycock Rock, West.
Hole in the Wall, the.
with the Lady Nelson.
fires her guns.
Joseph Druce, the.
Kable & Underwood, Messrs.
Kent, Captain William George Carlile.
King, Captain Phillip Parker.
King George's Sound.
letters to Grant.
instructions to Grant.
letters from Grant.
appoints John Murray Commander of the Lady Nelson.
confirms appointment of Symons.
instructions to Murray.
consulted by Captain Flinders.
charters Albion Whaler.
arranges for settlement at Newcastle.
King of Spain.
King's Yard, the.
Lady Julia Island.
Lady Nelson, the.
first vessel to sail through Bass Strait.
important part in the discovery of Australia.
charts the coastline of Victoria.
nicknamed "His Majesty's Tinderbox."
fired on by the Hussar.
anchors at St. Iago.
at the Cape of Good Hope.
falls in with whales.
at Jervis Bay.
meets the Cornwallis.
Murray succeeds Grant as Commander.
voyage to Norfolk Island.
in Diana Bay.
at Kent's Group.
at Port Phillip.
sails to the Hawkesbury.
with the Investigator.
at Sandy Cape.
explores coral reefs.
loses an anchor.
commanded by George Courtoys.
in Sydney Cove.
commanded by James Symons.
repairs in Twofold Bay.
last voyage from Sydney.
Lady Nelson Reef.
Lady Nelson's Point.
Lady Nelson's Port.
Lay Island Reach.
Le Corre, Captain.
Lord Howe Island.
Lover's Leap Reach.
Marengo, Cape, see Albany Otway.
Maria Van Diemen, Cape, see North-West Cape.
Marsden, Reverend Samuel.
Millet Island Reach.
Montesquieu, Cape, see Bridgewater, Cape.
Mullet Island Reach.
Murray, Lieutenant John.
appointed Commander of the Lady Nelson.
receives instructions from Governor King.
first sight of Port Phillip.
enters the Port.
letter from R.B. Wood.
punishes the crew for drunkenness.
for falling asleep on watch.
names Elephant Bay.
returns to Western Port.
sees a snake.
superseded by George Curtoys.
Nepean, Point, see Repear, Point.
New South Wales Corps.
Nobby's, the, see Coal Island.
North Head Point.
North Point Island.
Northumberland, Cape of.
One Tree Reach.
Otway, William Albany, R.N.
names Ann's Mountain.
Peak of Pines.
Percy, Lady Julia.
Pinch Gut Island.
Pines, Hill of.
Port Number 2.
Portland, Duke of.
Port du Debut.
Port Jackson Heads.
Rio de Janeiro.
Salt Water Lagoon.
Saxe Coburgs Range.
Schanck, Captain John, R.N.
Sea Elephant Bay.
Sea Lyon Island.
Sentry Box Reach.
Shoal Water Bay.
Shot Snake Reach.
Sir Roger Curtis's Island.
Sir William Grant's Cape.
Solicitor, Cape, see Montaigne Cape.
South Hogan's Group.
Sow and Pigs.
Stanley, Lieutenant Owen.
Storm Bay Passage.
Strong Tide Passage.
Suffrein, Cape, see Patton's Cape.
Sugar Loaf Hill.
Sugar Loaf Island.
Surprise, the, see Diana, the.
Swaine and Campbell, Messrs.
Symons, Lieutenant James.
sails to Port Dalrymple.
sent to Jervis Bay.
leaves for Sydney with Governor King.
Three Hummock Island.
Three Kings Island.
Timor, Island of.
Titteranee, Island of.
Tourville Bay, see Portland Bay.
Tozer, Mr. William.
Van Diemen, Cape.
Van Diemen's Land, see also Tasmania.
Watson, Captain Thos.
Wednesday and Thursday Islands.
Western Arms, the.
West India Fleet.
Wiwiki, Cape, see Point Pocock.
Yacaaba, see Port Stephens.
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